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True Blood’s Rutina Wesley on Tara’s Big Twist

Rutina Wesley as Tara. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

After being possessed by maenad MaryAnn and her group orgies, losing Eggs, attempting suicide, being held captive by psychotic vampire Franklin, giving herself an ill-advised Felicity-style haircut, and mistakenly aligning with a vengeful witch, it’s about time Tara got hers. [SPOILER ALERT] With her new fangs, that shouldn’t be a problem. In last night’s season premiere of True Blood, Sookie and Lafayette decided Tara would be better off a vampire than dead and recruited Pam to do the making. Rutina Wesley spoke with Vulture about life on the other side.

Finally, Tara’s not a victim anymore! Was that your reaction, too, when you found out she was going to be a vampire?
I was actually very surprised. I wouldn’t have expected Tara’s journey to go that way. I was excited but incredibly terrified at the same time.

Why terrified?
Well, as an actor, when you’re going to be shot in the head at the end of a show’s season, and you hear about this next step that’s totally different from what you’ve done, it can be scary. I will never forget [series executive producer] Alan Ball pulling me to the side on set last season and going, “Hey! We’re really excited and we hope you will be too because Tara is going to be turned into a vampire.” I was just like, “Uh … uh … okay? Awesome?” I didn’t want to react too much because we were shooting and it was supposed to be secret. But I went home and was like, “Oh my God, I gotta start over. What am I going to do? I hope I’m a good vampire!” It was a mix of emotions.

Was it tough to not talk about it for all these months?
It was very hard to keep the secret, but I’ve learned over the past four years to become good at that. Alan was very much like, “You can tell them you’re coming back but just don’t tell them how.”      

There were a lot of fans who were frustrated by seeing Tara repeatedly victimized. Did you feel that way?
It’s always been a challenge, but I’ve loved everything they’ve written for me. Meaty, dramatic, tumultuous. Tara’s always had a lot going on, and that gives me so much to play. It was difficult sometimes playing someone who’s always so heavy and then going home and trying to shake it off. But I kind of love it. I’ve never doubted the situations they’ve put Tara in. Hers will be an interesting journey this season. She’s become the thing she hates and fears the most.

She didn’t look too happy about it in last night’s episode.
She’s pissed. [Laughs.] To me, it’s funny because I had a ball shooting this stuff where I get to go crazy and tear things up. I have vampire speed now. I remember they wanted me to take off and go really fast so I did, but then they took it back. “Rutina, Rutina, you don’t need to run so fast! Or maybe you don’t need the vamp-speed [effect] because you’re a track star.” Things are going to be very chaotic at first. Tara’s going to make a mess. Obviously, her relationships with Sookie and Lafayette are going to be difficult at best. She holds them very much responsible.

Pam [Kristin Bauer van Straten] is Tara’s maker, which basically makes her Tara’s mom. Would you say she is more Mama Rose or Mommie Dearest?
It’s really going to be both because Tara will be defiant for a while, but once she starts to adapt, she and Pam could have some fun. Pam and Tara actually have a lot in common. They both speak their minds and, now, they’re not afraid of anybody. Kristin Bauer is so funny. Half the time I’m working with her I’m just trying to keep a straight face. I should say Pam is always going to be Pam, though. There’s always going to be some of, “Ugh, you’re my thing now.”

It was pretty great seeing her in the Wal-Mart sweats.
Yes! Kristin thought it was so great. It was perfect with the gartered ankles — a little too short, a little too tight, all yellow.

And then you both were buried alive.
That freaked me out. “Wait, we’re doing what? You’re going to throw dirt on my face and bury me?” It turned out to be a beautiful shot. That’s how you get it, you do it for real. What was hard was not moving because I’m supposed to be dead while they’re dropping dirt on you. But now I can say I’ve been buried alive and put it on my résumé.

Did you get any pointers from the vampires in the cast on how to bite properly or melt the right way?
Oh yeah, I needed the Vampire Book for Dummies. I kept asking for the guys. I don’t know how to put these teeth in. Everyone helped, but I’ve also created my own vampire. I’ve got my own bite, my own way of moving. I’ve come up with a couple of animals, too, to help me be a more feral vampire. I think Tara’s very feral.

What kind of animals?
Like a wild, angry possum. That’s what I’m doing right there.

A wild, angry possum, but with the Tara swagger.
[Laughs.] Yes. Tara figures it out. I can throw someone across the room just because I want to? It’s on.

True Blood’s Rutina Wesley on Tara’s Big Twist